Visualization of the oculomotor cranial nerves by magnetic resonance imaging

Strabismus. 2004 Jun;12(2):85-96. doi: 10.1080/09273970490517511.


MRI is the imaging method of choice in patients with cranial nerve palsies. However, the nerves are often not seen on MR images and smaller lesions may not be diagnosed on routine brain MRI. The purpose of this study is to show that the oculomotor cranial nerves can be visualized by standard MR sequences and to present an update on clinical applications of cranial nerve imaging. In MR images of normal subjects, it is demonstrated that the oculomotor nerve, the trochlear nerve and the abducens nerve can be identified not only in the subarachnoid space and cavernous sinus, but also in the orbit. However, a precondition is the use of appropriate imaging sequences and planes (e.g., subarachnoid cisterns: T2-weighted fast spin-echo or T2*-weighted three-dimensional sequences in oblique-axial and sagittal planes; cavernous sinus: contrast-enhanced T1-weighted coronal images; orbit: T1-weighted images without contrast agent in the coronal plane obtained using surface coils). The capability of imaging cranial nerves is clinically important not only for diagnostic purposes in eye muscle palsies but also for planning surgical procedures at the cranio-orbital junction.

MeSH terms

  • Abducens Nerve / anatomy & histology*
  • Eye / anatomy & histology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Oculomotor Nerve / anatomy & histology*
  • Trochlear Nerve / anatomy & histology*